Autumn Harvest Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette #Sponsored by @BrightFarms + GIVEAWAY

Today we're excited to be partnering with BrightFarms as part of their #ChooseLocal campaign. I have been compensated for this post, but as always, all opinions are my own.

DISCLOSURE: Today we're excited to be partnering with BrightFarms as part of their #ChooseLocal campaign.  I have been compensated for this post, but as always, all opinions are my own.

DISCLOSURE: Today we're excited to be partnering with BrightFarms as part of their #ChooseLocal campaign.  I have been compensated for this post, but as always, all opinions are my own.

I'm not quite sure how, or even when it happened, but somewhere along the way food became confusing. What was originally meant to be simple and nourishing has become a complicated mess of buzz words and fads that frequently leaves me scratching my head, wondering what ridiculous suggestion will come next.

In a world that constantly bombards us with "facts" about our health, it can be tough to weed through the information and figure out what is real. Yesterday eggs were bad, now they're good. We need to go gluten-free, dairy-free, or meat-free to be healthy. Eating more vegetables is never a bad idea, but what about the toxic pesticides? Organic is the only way to go, but with the rising cost of food who can afford it? Oh, don't forget, french fries will give you cancer. 

As if that wasn’t enough to make choosing a health lifestyle difficult, there are actually thousands of companies out there selling miracle "cures" to everything that ails you. There is even a vape pen that's meant to be used as an anti-snacking aide.  

Let's take a moment to chew on that one...

Feeding your family healthy meals shouldn't be so confusing. That is why you'll find the vast majority of our posts are dedicated to simple recipes using the best, often local, ingredients that you can afford. The recipes and posts on our site are styled in a way that encourages people of all skill levels to cook healthy meals.

Rather than get caught up in all of the marketing hype, our stance has always been to eat simple, seasonal foods as often as we can because food that hasn't travelled thousands of miles to reach your door always tastes better. The most important thing is to use the freshest ingredients possible, whether you shop at the local grocery store, grow your own food, or purchase it from a local farm or farmers' market.

Today we're excited to be partnering with BrightFarms, a local producer of salad greens, to shine a light on some of our favorite local products. Keep reading for a simple salad recipe made from fresh, local ingredients and while you're at it make sure to enter our giveaway for a $25 grocery gift card so you can purchase everything you need to make your own Autumn Harvest Salad.

DISCLOSURE: Today we're excited to be partnering with BrightFarms as part of their #ChooseLocal campaign.  I have been compensated for this post, but as always, all opinions are my own.

DISCLOSURE: Today we're excited to be partnering with BrightFarms as part of their #ChooseLocal campaign.  I have been compensated for this post, but as always, all opinions are my own.

Autumn Harvest Salad
 

with Apple Cider Vinaigrette



 

Ingredients


for the salad

BrightFarms Local Baby Greens Blend
SweeTango apple, thinly sliced
Shallot, thinly sliced
Pecan halves (see notes)
Applewood smoked bacon, cooked and crumbled (see notes)

for the vinaigrette

3 Tablespoons light flavored oil (see notes)
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon apple cider
½ teaspoon whole grain mustard with honey (see notes)
¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
sea salt and black pepper, to taste

Directions
 

 

  • Prepare the vinaigrette: in a small glass bottle or mason jar combine oil, apple cider vinegar, apple cider, pumpkin pie spice, whole grain mustard with honey, sea salt, and pepper. Shake until well combined. Refrigerate any leftovers.
  • In a skillet cook bacon until crispy, remove from pan, then set aside to cool.
  • Combine local baby greens, apple, shallot, pecan halves, and crumbled bacon then toss with vinaigrette. Serve immediately, preferably with a huge hunk of crusty baguette slathered with salted butter.

 

Notes


The type of oil you choose for this recipe is very important. A more-strongly flavored oil will drowned out the flavors, which is why I recommend skipping the extra virgin olive oil. Instead try using a light-flavored olive oil, canola oil, or another neutral-flavored oil of your choice.

One important thing to note is that honey mustard and whole grain mustard with honey are not the same things. My preferred mustard comes Doux South, but feel free to substitute with one of your choosing. And, if you happen to be near Madison, WI come visit the only museum in the world dedicated to mustard: The National Mustard Museum in Middleton, WI.

Schermer pecans can be purchased directly from their website, but you'll often seen them offered as part of a fundraiser. Mine came from the Missouri chapter of the Children of the American Revolution (thanks mom!)

I spend a lot of time traveling, so it shouldn't surprise you when I say that my go-to bacon changes depending on where I'm at. While in Wisconsin it's a delicious applewood smoked variety from Patrick Cudahy, located in Cudahy, WI. When I'm down South with my family my allegiance switches to Burger's Smokehouse from California, MO. I've been in love with their old-fashioned Applewood smoked bacon for years, but it isn't always easy to find where I live. They're both solid choices that originate in the mid-west, so if you see them in your local supermarket make sure to give them a try.
 

Giveaway

 

TERMS: This giveaway is sponsored by BrightFarms and will run through October 31st 2017 at 12PM EST. It is open to US readers only, void where prohibited by law. You must be at least 18 years of age to enter, no purchase necessary. The number of eligible entries received will determine the odds of winning. Retail value of prize: $25.  Winner will be selected randomly and be notified by email. If no response is received within 72 hours the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be chosen. Winners: your contact information will be given to Abel Communications PR Firm so they can ship the prize to you, you can expect delivery in 4 - 6 weeks.

Disclosure


Today we're excited to be partnering with BrightFarms as part of their #ChooseLocal campaign.  I have been compensated for this post, but as always, all opinions are my own.

Ruby Red Smoothie

My habit of skipping breakfast has been years in the making. Even when I was younger I'd rush off to school having eaten nothing, only to be starving before the first bell rang. This habit didn't change much as I got older, although I did wise up and start carrying granola bars in my backpack after one of my classmates commented on the fact that the jolt cola I was chugging down like my life depended on it was doing nothing to quiet my grumbling stomach. By college my classes had fewer than 15 people in them, so the whole room knew I'd rolled out of bed just in time to drive to class.

Now that I have a child of my own my eating habits have changed for the better. I've been trying to lead by example (and so far it's working.) If he sees me eating a healthy breakfast, then he's more inclined to eat breakfast as well. And if breakfast happens to include something brightly colored with a fun straw, it doesn't really matter than I've hidden beets and spinach in it, it looks like fun therefore it gets consumed quickly.

If you're not entirely sold on the idea of beets, try adding a little bit more each time you make your smoothie. After a few days you won't even notice that you've been slipping something healthy into your drink. I'll admit, it took me a little while to adjust to their earthy taste, I've never been a fan of beets, but I've been drinking these several times a week for months now and have really come to enjoy them. Hopefully you will too, but if not feel free to leave me a comment below. I love to hear feedback, both good and bad.

Ruby Red Smoothie

Ruby Red Smoothie
makes 1 serving

Ingredients

1 handful fresh spinach
4 - 6 beet slices, frozen (see notes)
4 - 6 whole strawberries, frozen
1 over ripe banana

Directions

  • Combine all of the ingredients and blend until smooth. Serve immediately.

Notes

I've been buying bags of frozen beets from Whole Foods, they run about $2 for 10 ounces of non-gmo beets. I find that I'm more likely to add them to my smoothie if I don't have to worry about slicing them up myself. 

No Fuss Crock-Pot Apricot Butter

This week while I was out shopping I really hit the jackpot. I came across seven pounds of less than perfect apricots that the manager had marked down. I snapped up every last one of them, knowing I would come up with something tasty to make. I toyed around with the idea of making jam or jelly, but with a toddler running around I knew the chances were good that I wouldn't have the time to keep a proper eye on it. Not wanting to run the risk of ruining 7 pounds of precious apricots I decided to make apricot butter instead.

Fruit butter recipes are perfect for when you don't have the time to keep a close eye on what you're cooking. They're also great for first time canners since they're pretty well impossible to mess up. You just peel your fruit, toss it in the crock pot with a handful of other ingredients, and let it cook down for 8 - 10 hours. The end result is a wonderfully smooth spread that is perfect for adding to toast, oatmeal, or yogurt for a quick breakfast in the morning.

ApricotButter.jpg

Apricot Butter
makes 7 half-pints

Ingredients

7 lbs Apricots
¼ teaspoon cloves
1 vanilla bean
1 small lemon, juiced and zested
1 cup granulated sugar

Equipment

immersion blender (optional)
water-bath canner or stock pot with lifter
7 half pint canning jars with lids and rings
jar grabber
magnetic lid lifter
funnel
butter knife
ladle
clean dish towels and cloths 

Directions

  • Remove the skins from the apricots. Boil a large pot of water, add apricots, and blanch for 1 minute, or until skins start to crack. Depending on the size of your pot you may need to work in batches. 
  • Transfer blanched apricots to cold water and once cool the skins should easily peel off. Remove pits and skins, then place in crock pot. 
  • Open vanilla bean pod with a knife and scrape the insides into the crockpot. Once insides are removed, toss the entire pod in with the apricots.
  • Cover with lemon juice, add lemon zest, and cook on low for 8 - 10 hours. Make sure to leave the lid partially off to allow the steam to escape. 
  • After 8 hours the contents of the crock pot should have reduced roughly in half, if they have not you can continue to cook the apricots down until they have reached the desired consistency. 
  • Remove vanilla bean pod, add sugar and cloves, and stir until well incorporated.
  • Fill hot canning jars and process using the water bath canning directions below.

Processing times for this recipe

are 15 minutes for elevations of 0-1,000 ft and 20 minutes for elevations of 1,001-6,000 ft. These times are for quarter-pints, half-pints and pints only.

  • Before canning sterilize your canning jars, rings, potato masher, and any other equipment that will come into contact with the apricot butter. You can do this easily by putting everything in the dishwasher and running it. Just don't put your equipment in with dirty dishes.
  • While your jars are sterilizing fill your stock pot with water and let it boil. It takes awhile for a large pot of water to boil, so keep this in mind. You don't want to fill your jars before your water is ready.
  • Once you're ready to fill your jars, place a sauce pan on the stove. Add your canning lids and fill pan with several inches of water. Bring the water to a simmer and allow the sealing wax on the lids to soften for several minutes.
  • Fill sterilized jars with hot apricot butter leaving 1/2 inch head space at the top. Remove air bubbles with a knife, wipe the rims with a clean damp rag, place lids on top and fasten ring until finger tight.
  • Place sealed jars on a rack in the canner or stock pot. Make sure jars are covered with water and that the waterline is about an inch over the top of the jars, then cover pot with lid.

You do not want the jars coming into contact with the bottom of the canner or stock pot because they will bounce around and likely break.

  • Process half pints and pints for 15 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Time starts once the water has come to a complete boil again. You may need to add boiling water to keep the water level up as the jars are processing.
  • Remove jars from canner, set on a clean dish towel, and let them rest for several hours until cool. You should hear a popping sound as the lids seal. 

 

  • To check the seals of your jars press the center gently with your finger. If it moves up and down the jar is not sealed. You can either reprocess using a new lid never reuse an old lid or once the jar is cool, eat the apricot butter. You know you want to and you deserve the treat after such hard work!
  • Label with detailed contents and date, then store in a cool, dark, and dry place.

Other Notes

This recipe works with peaches too, or even a mix of apricots and peaches. 

If you aren't happy with the texture of your butter try using an immersion blender to create a smoother texture. 

Watermelon Coconut Water Smoothie + Cocozia 100% Organic Coconut Water Review

Sometimes I feel like the only food blogger who hasn't jumped on the coconut water bandwagon. I've seen it everywhere the past few years, but up until recently I haven't had a chance to try it. Despite its recent popularity many of the grocery stores in my area still don't stock it, which is one of the downsides of living in a small town. Last month when Cocozia contacted me and offered to send me a case of their 100% Organic Coconut Water I decided to take them up on the offer to see what all the fuss was about.

There were a number of things I liked about the product right off the bat. Cocozia is 100% Organic natural coconut water, it doesn't contain preservatives, and doesn't come from a concentrate. The packaging is perfect for someone who is always on-the-go (like a certain food blogger we all know and love) and comes complete with a pretty nifty collapsable straw that doesn't bend when you try to puncture the carton. All drink boxes should come with this type of straw, it has some serious puncture power!

As for the flavor, I will say that I wasn't impressed. It turns out that Cocozia coconut water has a bit of an odd salty flavor to it. After drinking four of the tetra boxes from Cocozia as well as four competing brands of coconut water I've come to several conclusions:

  1. I don't really enjoy coconut water, even if it is healthy.
  2. Cocozia has a much less pleasing flavor than several of the competing brands I tried.

I've heard that coconut water is an acquired taste and I've also heard that you either love it or hate it. I find that I'm rather indifferent to it, it's just so bland and uninteresting. I decided that since I don't care for it plain, but do like the health benefits associated with coconut water, I would take my remaining drink boxes into the kitchen to experiment with. Today's recipe was the clear winner in my experimentation because the salty flavor of the coconut water pairs surprisingly well with the sweetness of the watermelon. I've added a bit of peppermint and lime zest to give the smoothie a more robust flavor. This combination makes for an incredibly refreshing summertime smoothie.

Where to purchase

WatermelonCoconutSmoothie.jpg

Watermelon Coconut Water Smoothie
makes 1 serving

Ingredients

6 ounces coconut water, frozen (I used Cocozia)
1 cup watermelon chunks
1 Tablespoon lime zest
1 mint leaf

Substitutions:

If you don't have coconut water on hand you can use regular ice cubes to make this recipe.

Directions

  • Fill an ice cube tray with coconut water and freeze for several hours. You'll need about 6 ice cubes for this recipe.
  • Using a grater, zest lime. In a blender combine lime zest, watermelon, mint leaf, and frozen coconut water. Blend until smooth. Serve immediately.

Notes

In case anyone was wondering I also tried VitaCoco, ZICO, Taste Nirvana Real Coconut Water, and 100% Naked Coconut Water. These were the only four brands I was able to find locally for a taste comparison. Of the brands that I sampled for this review I preferred the naturally sweet flavor of Taste Nirvana Real Coconut Water, which of course was the most expensive of the brands I sampled. My mother always did say that I have expensive tastes.

Where to Purchase

Amazon - Cocozia 100% Organic Coconut Water

Disclosure:

In an effort to be open with my readers I want to let you know that EPICUREX has provided me with a case of Cocozia 100% Organic Coconut Water for review. I purchased packages of VitaCoco, ZICO, Taste Nirvana Real Coconut Water, and 100% Naked Coconut Water on my own for comparison purposes. As always, all opinions are my own. 

This post contains my Amazon affiliate links. I try to keep advertising unobtrusive and to a minimum in order to provide you with the best experience possible. Purchases made through these links provide me with a small income and ensure I can continue providing you with quality content.